Kovalam is not wide enough to accommodate activities that encourage beach visits. As a result, it will always stay in the league of second-rung beaches

Is Kovalam the beach of the future? With this question in my mind, I do a staggered survey of the beach over the weekend.

The exercise turns up mixed findings. But the overall picture is positive: Kovalam rises above its inherent mediocrity by virtue of the developmental wave sweeping through the region. The fishing village of Kovalam is situated 40 km south of Chennai but is close to fast-developing extended areas and well connected to the city by MTC buses.

By itself, the beach offers only a few things to gush over. It sweeps around the sea in a striking arc, has prominent outcroppings and lends itself well to surfing. I meet Sundeep Holani, a Delhi-based entrepreneur on a four-day visit to Kovalam to cut his surfing teeth. A line of seafood stalls along the approach road is probably the only other plus.

And then, it goes downhill. Kovalam is not wide enough to accommodate all the activities that encourage beach visits. As a result, it will always stay in the league of second-rung beaches such as Tiruvanmiyur, Pallavakkam, Neelankarai and Akkarai, and never stack up against the Marina or Elliot’s. A narrow approach road is another minus.

And now, the redeeming feature. Of a network of growth corridors dissecting the southern suburbs, three — OMR, Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road and ECR — provide access to Kovalam. The beach is feeding off these stretches, particularly the section of OMR near Kelambakkam.

Sakubai, who has raised children and grandchildren, all in Kovalam, says visitors to the beach have increased manifold in the last seven years. Alphonse, a shopkeeper, agrees with her and chalks up the spurt in numbers to the recent developments on OMR.

And this is development of an unusual kind. Along the stretch under question — Navalur to Kelambakkam — builders have taken the idea of going one up on their rivals to great heights. Towers, ranging from 28 to 40 floors, are among what is going to define this stretch. Some of them are already up and standing.

With supply outstripping demand at present, many of the apartments in the OMR area are vacant. Despite this, construction activity continues unabated. The best illustration comes from the Kelambakkam-Kovalam Road, much of which bisects a body of backwaters. Areas on this 4-km stretch, which links OMR and ECR and leads to the beach, are dotted with newly-erected apartment complexes.

Looking at this, it is tempting to conclude Kovalam may just be the beach of the future, catering to residents of these emerging areas on the southern fringes.

Chennai Central at The Hindu celebrates Madras Week

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